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Paralyzed Cop's Home to Get a TV Makeover
The unusual tale of the paralyzed cop, her dutiful husband, their baby daughter and a quest for a normal life took a Hollywood turn Wednesday.
October 12, 2006
Source: Brent Hopkins
Staff Writer, Daily News
In desperate need of a home that can accommodate her disability, Los Angeles police Officer Kristina Ripatti and her family will get a much-needed lift from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" beginning Friday, when their Redondo Beach home will be razed. On Saturday, Ty Pennington and his crew will rebuild it. By next week, the family will have a new home. On Nov. 26, the show will air on ABC.
"Her story is a metaphor for the struggles that people are going through all over America," said Diane Korman, the program's senior producer. "We're so honored to be able to build a house for them. When we knocked on the door this morning, you should have seen the neighbors all come out and cheer."
As part of the show's premise, the couple will be kept isolated for the next week, off on a Cabo San Lucas vacation while a crew of more than 700 volunteers remakes the lot.
Ripatti and her husband, fellow Officer Tim Pearce, were unavailable to talk Wednesday, but they'd spent plenty of time in the previous months worrying about how they'd adjust to life in a house ill-equipped for wheelchair access.
On June 3, she took a bullet to the chest and two through her arm as she wrestled a pistol-wielding robbery suspect to the ground. The incident left her assailant dead and Ripatti with a .22 slug in her spine, a career on hold and an active life completely knocked askew.
Paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair, she spent the past four months sleeping in a hospital bed in her living room while Pearce and their daughter, Jordan, slept upstairs.
She bought the home in 1999, sharing it with her sister, Maureen. She lived there in her early days as a gang officer in the LAPD's dangerous Southwest Division. During her time there, she fell in love with Pearce, her former partner, braved through Maureen's battle with lupus, which took her sister's life three years ago, and gave birth to Jordan, now 20 months old.
Unable to navigate the stairs of the two-story Redondo Beach home, the family elected to move to a much smaller two-bedroom nearby. The tiny residence was quaint but still difficult to get around.
At the beginning of October, they took out a loan, packed their life into boxes and left the quiet street where they'd lived throughout their married life. Aided by friends and family, they squeezed into a two-bedroom mid-century house and looked for a way to start again.
Before they left, Pearce helped his wife from her wheelchair and carried her up the stairs one final time. Her arms wrapped tight around his broad shoulders, she ascended to see their bedroom for just the third time since she'd been shot.
Her surfer's wet suit hung in the closet, next to her martial arts uniform. Their cat, terrified from the activity of the move, cowered beneath the clothes, crying.
"It's OK, Fuzzy. It's OK," Ripatti whispered.
The final survey complete, Pearce carried her back down to his truck. The big cop helped his wife into her seat, then hefted her chair into the pickup's bed and drove toward their new life.
"I feel like a guest in my own house," she said, reflecting on the home she'd left behind. "My baby's upstairs, I'm sleeping in the living room, I'm cut off from anyone. ... It's time to move on."
They already knew "Extreme Makeover" was considering them but didn't learn until Wednesday morning that the program had made its decision. Without it, they faced a major remodel to make their new place livable and secure.
"This has been so much stress for those two, not knowing what was going to happen," said Officer Joe Meyer, Ripatti's partner and close friend. "You could just see it in their faces today, what an incredible thing this will be."
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